Serpent Temptation

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Extreme metal from the golden age, Incubus' debut is like a demo tape set to vinyl, a low-budget introduction that tempers its naïveté with sheer energy and hunger. Led by brothers Francis and Moyses Howard, Brazilian transplants to the New Orleans metal scene of the mid-'80s, these thrashers have nothing to do with the identically-named alternative hitmakers that rose to prominence in the next decade. This Incubus was furthering the hyperspeed experiments of Slayer and Metallica; like many acts of the era, the only improvement they could offer was to go even faster, often drowning good ideas in machine-gun rattle. Though guitarist Francis musters up some truly punishing riffs and the band is tight, muddy production robs the music of power, resulting in drums that sound like damp cardboard and cheap guitar tones without nuance. Scot LaTour's bass is buried in the muck and his distant, reverb-drenched vocals lack conviction, as if he was sitting in an easy chair while tracking. Serpent Temptation is fully with the zeitgeist of the times, from the cover art (skeletons, snakes, rivers of fire) to the insert's crude photo collage of the band jamming and clowning. Still, these are nice boys who mention their grandmother in the "Special Thanks To" list and don't jump headfirst into the blasphemy of their counterparts. Instead of reveling in the imagery of a rebellion against God, Incubus approaches "The Battle of Armageddon" as a Bible story, and apparently they believe it ("Beware the Anti-Christ will be here/To exterminate our religion each year/Because he knows the son of man is near/Don't be afraid Jesus Christ will be here"). This is no gospel hybrid, though the rest of Serpent Temptation is filled with gratuitous gore ("Sadistic Sinner"), mosh-pit anthems ("Incubus"), and indignant finger-pointing at corrupt political and religious leaders ("Blaspheming Prophets"). Incubus was just too green at this point to be much more than enthusiastic and promising, and the results are a bit generic overall. After replacing LaTour and releasing one more album, Incubus went on sabbatical for six years, resurfacing under the new moniker Opprobrium.

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